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11 Oct, 2023 19:22

US updates death toll of citizens killed in Israel-Palestinian escalation

An unknown number of Americans are being held hostage by Hamas militants
US updates death toll of citizens killed in Israel-Palestinian escalation

At least 22 US citizens have been killed in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, while another 17 are unaccounted for, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.

The latest figures represent an increase from Tuesday, when US President Joe Biden announced that 14 Americans had lost their lives in the previous days’ fighting. 

It is unclear whether any of those killed died in Palestinian territory.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden also revealed that an unknown number of Americans had been taken hostage by Hamas fighters. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby later told CNN that the White House was having “active conversations” with Israel to try and secure the release of the captives.

Jean-Pierre did not say whether the White House believes the 17 missing Americans are being held as hostages.

According to a report by The Messenger on Tuesday, the US has sent hostage rescue experts to advise the Israel Defense Forces and placed special forces operatives on alert in “a nearby European country.”  US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed on Tuesday that American special forces were currently assisting the Israeli military with “planning and intelligence,” but did not say whether they were involved in hostage rescue operations.

Hamas militants began firing barrages of rockets into Israel from Gaza on Saturday, with fighters then pouring across the border and raiding Jewish settlements near the Palestinian enclave. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by declaring a state of war and launching airstrikes on Gaza, while Israeli forces imposed a siege on the Palestinian enclave. 

More than 1,200 Israelis and 1,100 Palestinians have been killed since Saturday, according to the most recent figures from each side. At least 8,500 people have been wounded in what is the most intense outbreak of violence in Israel in decades.